As a romance author, I’m passionate about the magic of romantic love. But in my life, I’ve found that in friendship love there is magic also. Love is what makes any relationship a gift. In the past, I have shared my journey of finding romantic love with Sam. But I learned a valuable lesson about love in the weeks before I met him.
I went through a very testing time, both physically and mentally. My body and brain had crashed, and I was admitted to the hospital. Bouquets of flowers arrived, and my sister stayed with me every day from morning to night. There wasn’t much keeping me clinging on to life but love.
My sister's love gave me the strength to endure the pain and keep breathing. My friends came to see me, and I saw love in their concern for me. But what amazed me was that after the crisis had passed my close friends kept coming to see me through a slow recovery. Even when the weeks turned into a month, every day or two I had a friend arrive and sit with me. To me they're real life heroines.
In my addled state I wondered, why are they coming when I can’t be amusing or do anything for them. All I could do was smile and say a few words while they told me about what was happening in their lives. I always felt a bit better after every visit. I came to the conclusion that they must love me. That me - the person, was enough. I didn’t have to do anything to be loved. Even when I could barely speak enough to put a sentence together.
That profound thought amazed me. I hadn’t realized I’d held a belief that I needed to do something to be loved. I only needed to be myself, whatever that was.
I cherish those dear girlfriends who kept turning up and being a lifeline for me. Their empathy and patience and steadfastness is such a gift that I’ll treasure always. They’re still in my life turning up regularly, and I am now able to do it for them too.
Last night one of those dear women arrived for a casual pasta dinner while her husband was at the football. When I opened the door, Michelle surprised me with a bunch of sweet smelling, ruffly, pink stock. I was amazed. I told her she didn’t have to do that and she said, "Well, you ‘re giving me dinner, and I wanted to."
She’s the inspiration for this post. It’s not the flowers, it’s the giving spirit that fills me with gratitude for everything I’ve received from my loving friends.
This is a card that I gave my mother when I was in primary school. I must have been no older than ten, so she had kept it for over forty years. For me, it's a touching example of how much our mothers care. They worry about how we are sleeping. They worry about how we are doing at school and work. They want us to be happy in our life and support us the best they possibly can.
But mothers cannot be all the things we want them to be. They can’t give us all the things we’d like them to. There are excellent reasons for this and I believe they all add up to mothers being people doing their best with the skills life has equipped them. The benefit of that is mothers have to leave room for us to find our own way.
We have their support and encouragement as we tread our own special life path that is different from hers. Each of us has a brilliant mind, creative and unique so each of us will have a life that is unique. So our mother can’t completely prepare us for a life that is very different from hers. Neither should she.
My mother wasn’t a romance author like I have become. Each of us are here to create our own life. Our mother nurtures us until we are able to take the training wheels off and head down roads of our own choosing. Whatever kind of mother we had, whether she held our hand for a long time or a short time, she was there at the beginning and she was the right one for us. Our life is what it is because she began it all and taught us what she could. Even if those lessons weren’t pleasant they were a gift of experience that we now have knowledge of.
Mothers do so much behind the scenes in our lives. Their silent hopes or prayers for us continue long after we’ve grown up. When I’m writing I often think about the relationship my heroine has or had with her mother and what gifts it bestowed on her. Especially on Mother’s Day, I’ll be thinking of my mum. Watching me from spirit, I know she’ll be happy that I’m enjoying dinner with my grown up children.
She wasn’t perfect and I certainly wasn’t either, but since she passed I’ve never been more aware of how much I KNOW she gave me in kindness, caring, disciple, listening and giving advice. And I know I used what she gave me when it came to mothering my children. On a day that is full of pink roses and advertisements for expensive presents, I want to focus on my mother’s achievements and my own. Having my children come and visit me is present enough.
Only when the hero and heroine help each other to deal with past hurt can they move on to love and be loved. I can’t remember where I read or heard the following quote but it really stuck with me.
‘You don’t need to find a relationship without emotional baggage; you need to find someone to unpack with.’
In my novel, 'The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover', both Angus and Natalie have devoted their lives to a charitable cause. It's their outlet for not having a child to love. Each believes they can’t be successful in a relationship but in working together to organize a ball, they help each other examine past hurts and discover their ability to be in a partnership again.
2. We all can change.
We learn about ourselves through relationships. All of us have grown up with a complete set of beliefs that have to this point helped us navigate our way through life but if we don’t challenge those beliefs and try something new we’re destined to go round and round repeating the same cycles and not even try to reach for our dreams.
Romance novel heroes and heroines have to shift their beliefs about who they are and their purpose in life. Sometimes they must even discard old dreams in favor of new ones in order to get to their happily ever after.
Elizabeth from Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice', had to change her belief that as rich man Mr Darcy is selfish and prideful. Mr Darcy has to get past the belief that a woman will marry for money, with or without love.
3. Never accept defeat.
Heroes and heroines may have set backs of the sort you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy but they always rally and have another go at trying again in a different way. They learn from their mistakes and misfortunes and are brave about having another go.
n real life, we need to understand that when we fail it’s a learning experience. In my own life, I’ve had to accept that a relationship needed to end, but I took time to examine my role in the relationship not working out. What would I do differently next time? I handle myself in a more healthy way in my current relationship.
Mr Darcy had to correct his haughty behavior to win Elizabeth. If he'd taken offence at her rejection and never saw the merits in her answer to his proposal, he'd have pushed her away. He'd never have won her in the end.
In 'The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby', Alessandro has made a colossal mistake walking out on his wife when she needed him most. She made the mistake a disaster when she left without telling him she was pregnant.
Believing she had to raise their child alone, she got on with it. When he finds out that his actions combined with her past experiences created a situation that put his child out of his life he tries to fix it. At first he acts in the same old way but he gets rejected. Instead of boarding the first plane back to Italy he sticks around and listens to her. He sees mistakes as fixable and tries to find a way to get his family back together. No matter what happens he’s learned not to walk away and give up.
Not giving up hope or belief in yourself as lovable and capable in life is the most important lesson I've gained from reading romance. I've been inspired and uplifted to keep going from reading romance. I've seen characters respond differently to the way I would have and it's opened my mind up to trying a new approach to difficulty and adversity. I hope my books are able to do the same for even just one person. It's about giving back and making a difference because it helped me so much in my life.
Here's a couple of books that resonated with me during difficulty in my life:
'The Boomerang Bride' by Fiona Lowe, a woman arrives in another country and finds the man she was to marry had scammed her. Instead of crumbling into a hysterical mess and blaming the world, she owns her gullibility and gets to work making a new life for herself.
'The Perfect Rake' by Anne Gracie. A family of girls are abused by their mad grandfather. They don't just put up with it and feel like victims, they plan and execute a daring escape.
Every romance I've ever read, has at least one strong heroine (sometimes two) who will find a way to change her world if that's what is in her best interest. Lastly I think Heroes in romance are amazing. They model just what a perfect man should be, flawed but trying hard to make things right. They care more than they want to at times, but they have hearts that just want to love a strong woman.
Because I was inspired by romance I didn't give up. I kept believing in myself as strong, lovable and that there was someone for me. I was rewarded with Sam. Here's a link to my post on how we met in A little Christmas Romance.
If you've been inspired by a romance novel you've read, I'd love to read about it in the comments below.
I want my novels to have an uplifting effect on the reader. I take passionate, sexually attracted couples with terrible emotional wounds on a journey through the relationship they are meant to have. In finding a healing love it leads them to strive for their happy ever after.
In this week’s blog I’ve posted an excerpt from The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby. It falls close to the end of chapter two, and begins in Katrina’s point of view. It changes to Alessandro’s in chapter three. I did this because it’s about a man meeting his child for the first time. I want you the reader to be able to feel what each is suffering and hoping for It’s a huge moment in all their lives, Katrina, Alessandro and their baby Alex.
For Katrina and Alessandro, their past is playing a huge role in their present, and it is playing out through their internal thoughts and is preventing them reconciling.
In the first couple of chapters we see that both Katrina and Alessandro are still very sexually attracted to each other. It’s a strong pull that is matched by real love. But the hurt that this love once delivered makes them reluctant to let those feelings resurface. But it’s still there. You can read the first chapter on Amazon.
Have a read of the excerpt below and after it I’ll talk more about how healing love is working in the story.
Katrina and Alessandro fell in love but their relationship didn’t work out the first time because Alessandro lacked the ability to commit and Katrina couldn't believe a man could truly love her.
In the excerpt, baby Alex brings Katrina and Alessandro back together. You can see the effect on Alessandro that meeting his child has. Also what is shown is that their pasts play a huge role in how they internally process the events taking place. Alessandro finds the will to be a better man and show up, while we also see how Katrina is going to have to rethink her plan of raising Alex alone.
Neither is comfortable with the way things are changing. No one ever is, but the love they feel for each other and their little boy will keep them trying hard to work things out. Of course they have a lot of changes to make regarding their view of the world and each other but their love enables them to heal.
Although Katrina and Alessandro are good people, their past hurts have caused them to make hurtful errors of judgment, so that now it’s almost impossible to put things right. But this is a romance and they do find a way. That is because of the healing kind of love which is my kind of romance.
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The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby is available in eBook and print or borrow for free from your Kindle device with Amazon Prime.
My grandmothers listened, guided and helped me where they could. They didn’t have the important responsibility to raise me or pay for my shoes or doctors’ appointments. They’d done all that with one of my parents. Now was their time to enjoy children and to offer unconditional love and a wise word here and there. When creating my heroines, I always seem to think about not just her mother and what she was like but also who was her grandmother and what influence did she have. In my latest book, Katrina’s mother was a successful artist and worked a lot, so it was her grandmother who provided the stability and attention that little Katrina craved. Having had a close and loving relationship with both of my grandmothers, who were there for me when my mother couldn’t be, enriched my life beyond measure. I like to share a little about them with you.
My Nana (Dad’s mum) lived a few houses away in the same street. She was the social outgoing type who always came to see me dance at my annual ballet concert. I would call in and see her whenever I liked and was welcomed with a warm smile and offered a packet of chips, a treat that I promptly ate. She had fun loving friends who came to play cards. Sometimes I would call in after school and find them laughing and sitting around a card table in the lounge playing ‘Stop The Bus’. A chair for me would be pulled up and a pile of copper coins placed at my disposal. Under the window sat a coffee table. On here she had photos of her seventeen grandchildren displayed under glass. She called all of us ‘Dear’ because she used to get our names mixed up. Parties at Nana’s were a highlight at Christmas with all her children and grandchildren arriving for a sing-along and sometimes there was dancing. I used to love playing in her crystal cabinet. I was actually dusting it, but it was like playing to me. She left me that cabinet (see the photo above) and I will cherish it always.
My Granny (Mum’s mum) lived in the next suburb but it was there I had many sleepovers when Mum and Dad went out. She was an older grandmother and had been the head Sister in a country hospital before she married. She was a quiet woman who liked a simple life and kept her country ways even though she now lived in a big city. She taught me how to knit and crochet and to make paper pieced patchwork. A wood fired stove turned out scones and sausage rolls and an open fire in the lounge room was a special delight. There was a pot of tea with cups and saucers brought into the lounge on a tray, and Cadbury milk chocolate for supper.
I remember asking her some of the big questions. Like ‘Aren’t you scared of dying now that you’re old?’ I cringe now when I think about my young self being so tactless, but she gave me an answer that has stayed with me all my life. She explained that she wasn’t scared because she’d lived a long life and was tired now. She also told me that I didn’t have to worry because I’d be ready too when I was old and my time came. I stopped worrying about what lay ahead in all areas of my life. I assumed I’d be ready when the time came. She let me play with her makeup and I’d put on her red lipstick and bright rouge although I never saw her wear it and I assume it was kept solely to entertain her granddaughters. I was allowed to look through the jewelry that she kept in a crystal bowl. She left that bowl to me and I keep it in my study where I write.
I’ve dedicated “The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ to my grandmothers because of the love they gave me, and all their grandchildren, for the stability and quiet confidence that came from being family women who’d lived through all the stages of womanhood. They knew what lay ahead for me and did their best to help me see a light inside myself. They were giving in their time and showed how happy they were to see me whenever I visited.
Katrina, pretty ballerina, as I like to call her, had a close relationship with her grandmother. Because of this she wants her son to get to know his grandmother in Italy. I believe I could write this lovely lady from the heart because I had some wonderful women to inspire me.
If you’d like to order a copy of The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby.’ Follow the links below.
Kindle e-book buy link
Paperback buy link
I was sitting in the library during a class at primary school, when I chose a book to read simply because there was a fairy-like ballerina on the cover. Her light as air fluffy tutu and her elegant hair pulled back into a bun made me want to be her.
I don’t remember the name of the book but I have vague memories of a girl coming from a poor home. Her life was spartan and she fed the mice in the attic to make pets of them. I don’t think I’m mixing this up with Cinderella but you never know. I’ve had a look on Amazon and it may have been ‘Dance of the Swan’ A biography of Anna Pavlova. Her mother was poor after her father died. Born in Russia, she could learn to be a ballerina at the government-run school once she turned ten years old. It changed her life. She worked hard and endured painful feet to become a famous prima ballerina. I really wanted to be her. I wanted to be a beautiful woman who rose from obscurity and danced on a stage to the applause of hundreds.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait until I was grown up to have that experience.
I told my mother I wanted to learn ballet. Luckily there was a school in our neighborhood and although we weren’t well off, Mum somehow found the money for the fees, leotard, pink tights and of course the coveted shoes. To my extreme surprise and severe disappointment, they weren’t toe shoes. At only 10 years old I had a while to wait.
I was amazed at how strict but kind the teacher was. I knew I couldn’t dance very well, but she praised my determination to give it all I had when it came to the complicated steps and jumps. She was so elegant and graceful and was precisely what a ballet dancer should be.
At the end of the year, I had my first exam. I was so nervous and I remember her kissing me on the top of my head and saying I’d be okay. I could hardly breathe when I went into the room and began going through the steps I’d learned before a panel of three judges.
When I got to my next class, I raced with all the other girls to the notice board to find out my results. We crowded around and I heard them say they had got honors with pride or that they’d got a credit with not quite as much enthusiasm. Me, I was just praying for a pass. When I finally found my name and a pass next to it, I think I felt happier than any other girl in my class.
Near the end of the year, we began rehearsing our concert dances so extra classes were scheduled. I loved Saturday afternoons when the older girls came in to dance with us. I was transfixed watching them dancing on their toes. Like magic fairies, four girls danced with interlocked hands and bounced on toes doing a famous dance from Swan Lake. I was one of the many flowers that grew around the lake, in the background watching on.
Our concert was held at the town hall in front of a large audience. The buzzing excitement of being dropped off at the stage entrance by Mum was just the beginning. I was helped to dress in a gorgeous tulle costume and had my makeup done. It was a highlight experience of my childhood. We filed up a wooden staircase to one side of the wings and waited there with the fellow flowers, listening to orchestra music and the applause at the end of each scene. We gradually descended the stairs as each set of dancers went on stage and did their performance. Finally, it was my group's turn and I ran onto the stage. It was so dark out there but I sensed the audience and knew my mother, sister and grandmother were all watching me.
I danced my piece with the flower chorus and then stayed on stage but standing at the back I watched the beautiful older girls dance their piece. Then the audience clapped so loud. It was thrilling and exciting and happy but too soon it was time to leave. I ran as I’d been taught on tippy toes across the stage and out into the wings. I was hooked. I loved every minute.
I kept dancing for another few years until illness made me retire. I never did get a pair of the much-coveted toe shoes. I probably never would have become a real ballerina anyway. I was too uncoordinated, too tall and gangly but that doesn’t dim my enjoyment in the memories I have. I did get to dance on stage and hear thunderous applause that lifted me out of my ordinary life, and for one evening a year, I was a ballerina who danced on a stage.
As a romance writer, I get to live out the dreams of my childhood through my characters. Katrina Baxter is a prima ballerina. Dancing helped shape her identity and has been the one constant love in her life until she met Alessandro Rinaldo, a very determined Grand Prix champion. Each of them is 100 percent committed to their career until a little boy captivates their hearts and makes them see that there is more to life and to love than their careers.
I suppose we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up and for a lot of us it doesn’t work out that way. I don’t think it matters that much. In researching the book I discovered how much pain ballerinas endure for their craft and I know I wouldn’t want to have the arthritis a lot of them end up with. Perhaps having the dream, the imagining of how it would be, is the best part. In my case, I was lucky to have some part of the dream come true. The experience I had was enough, so that when it was time to let it go I was okay with it.
You can find my e-book about Katrina, Alessandro and their baby ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ on Amazon Available at the special pre-order price of 99cents until the released date on Nov 14th when it will be $2.99.
I'm giving a free advance copy away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment telling me what wanted to be when you grew up.
So It's our first Christmas together and Sam and I have bought a house. We're thrilled and can't wait to get into our new bigger place but we'll have a little while yet to wait.
We don't settle until January and there are renovations needed so I've been driving myself crazy with a Pinterest addiction. I can't stop my fingers from wanting to scroll on my phone through the many possibilities that I could use to decorate our new home.
If you follow me on Facebook you'll already have that news along with my extended family that my house has sold. My family had our once a year catch up/Christmas party last weekend and everyone was thrilled for us having read our news online. After the excitement of my auction was over, we moved Sam's furniture in to my house. It went from spacious luxury to cramped elegance. But it's worth it. We now have two TV's. That is heaven. I love watching home reno shows that are on at the same time as Sam's favorite Sixty Minutes or Sunday Night.
We decided as it's out first year living together we'd like to do a combined family lunch so we will be setting up tresle tables in the loungeroom and serving Turkey and Ham buffet style. It feels strange to be having Christmas in a house I've sold. It's a kind of limbo land, living in a house that won't be mine for much longer. It's promised to another family and I feel like a caretaker on some level.
I'm finding a way to decorate in a more restrained way this year, going for red and white mainly, Pinterest is full of inspiration and motivation. Sam and I have collected a few ornaments during our excersions to Christmas shops and they are on a smaller tree than I usually have. So the house feels a bit different this year. But once the family arrive and the bon bons are snapped it will have the feeling I love.
Not all our loved ones will be at the table this year. Some have other places to be and one very special person has gone to heaven. But I know that the love we have stays constant no matter where our loved ones are. We'll drink a toast to absent family and enjoy the company of those who can be sitting at the table with us.
I don't know if we'll be hosting next Christmas in our new home or who will be able to join us but I know one thing for sure, I'll be spending it with Sam and some of our family somewhere, and that's what Christmas is all about. Because I love it so much I couldn't help putting a Christmas scene in the epilogue of 'A Dance with the Laird'. There's something about family coming together to give to each other that makes me happy and want to cuddle someone. Even though I'm having Christmas in limbo land, I'll have the company of people I love and it will be just fine.
Since becoming an avid reader of romance novels, I always wanted to visit my favourite author Jane Austen's house. I waited for someone to travel with me but it just didn’t seem to pan out. If I wanted to go I’d need to do it on my own but the idea terrified me. Looking back I can see how I gained the confidence to travel alone to the other side of the world. First I got up the courage to travel to the other side of my home country, Australia.
I live on the south east coast in Melbourne but the cousin I grew up with had moved to the Pilbara in Western Australia. So when her daughter was being married down in Perth, I needed to plan a trip that covered the entire country including a very wide sandy desert. Was I up for driving across the Nullarbor Plain? Nope, but determined not to miss out I booked a flight.
The time came round for me to pack my fine clothes and some not so fine and get a lift to the airport. I arrived in Perth and with jangling nerves. Adrenaline clouded my thoughts but I managed to find the hire care and set off for the B&B. After a couple of wrong turns I found it and from there headed over to the party house my cousins rented. Whew.
We were all meeting in Perth because all the guests, except for a few, were flying in from various parts of the country. The house, rented for a couple of weeks only, became known as the 'The Big Brother House' as it served as a hub for us out of towners.
The wedding took place in a lush green garden. The bride and groom looked adoringly at each other and we had a feast and lots of fun speeches. It was an inspiring celebration but too soon it was over and the group was breaking up. I decided to drive down to Fremantle for a mini holiday. I got lost, badly and it ended up taking an hour more than it should have to drive the short distance from Perth to Fremantle but I decided, so what, I just saw more of the country side.
I walked around the town visiting the many designer shops and the craft market. Later, I splurged and stayed the night at the very grand Esplanade Hotel and the next morning ate eggs Benedict in my room with a stunning view of the Fremantle Harbour. A long road running along the spine of the spit protecting the harbour called to me. So after breakfast I drove out onto the narrow stretch of road and wound down my window to breathe the fresh ocean air. On either side of me water slip/slapped against the rocky base. Bright sunshine and warm, wind driven fluffy white clouds enchanted me. My heart pumped up into my throat from the excitement of adventure. I kept going till I reached the very end.
An emergency block of chocolate from the glove box got eaten with the door wide open, as I sat surrounded by water and as far away from anyone or anything than I'd been in a very long time. In that moment, the self made chains limiting me from experiencing the parts of the world that had called to me for so long dissolved. It didn’t matter that I got lost. It didn’t matter that I was completely alone. This was fantastic. The idea bloomed that I could do anything. My dream of going to England to see Jane Austen's house became a real possibility.
Heroines in romance novels seem to be always beautiful and slim, right? Bertrice Small’s Sky O’Malley, had perfect skin unmarked by a single blemish. I loved that book but I also love it when an author goes against the trend and creates a less than perfect body type in a heroine who’s perhaps past her prime or has a plump figure.
In the book ‘Where The Heart Is’ by Billie Letts, the heroine, Novalee Nation, is overweight. I know, the movie version cast a tiny actress for the role but its heart and soul was born from the book that had had a less than perfect body heroine. Hero, Forney Hull, sees her inner beauty. He’s fascinated by Novalee when she visits the library to find out how to save her sick tree.
There is no perfect body, of course and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. As in Anne Gracie’s ‘The Perfect Rake’, hero, Gideon shows us. He falls in love with plump (by Georgian standards) Prudence; he admires her figure a number of times. She’s his kind of beautiful. She has a “mother hen” nature in taking care of her sisters that he loves too. He’d sworn off marriage but in Prudence he finds the kind of woman he could spend a lifetime with and it’s his brand of attractive.
My favourite reunion-story, ‘Persuasion’, by (I don’t need to tell you but I simply must give her credit) Jane Austen, has heroine, Anne Elliot, a faded version of her younger self. Poor heroic, heartbroken Captain Wentworth claims to barely recognise her she’s so changed. If this isn’t proof that she’s not the prettiest girl in the room, he drives it home by giving all his attention to the pleasing Miss Musgroves. So much attention that by the time he realises Anne is the only one he could ever love, her status as more attractive than any other has returned, but he’s created expectations in one Miss Musgrove that may divide him from Anne forever. That his foolishness costs him a few sleepless nights is his just deserts.
All heroines have an inner beauty. They’re understanding and compassionate but flaws are fine, even physical ones. I’ve read lots of Mills and Boon Sexy and Desires with heroines who’ve been scarred or suffered burns, but their hero isn’t put off by them. For me it makes the HEA all the sweeter because I want life to compensate her for her pain and I’ve become so invested in her worthiness of being loved by a good man.
Let’s acknowledge that most of us have something we feel a bit insecure about even though we know we shouldn’t. Fiona Lowe’s Ruby and Rita winning ‘Boomerang Bride’ has a secondary character who is dealing with physical disfigurement. I became so deeply invested in her journey and felt sad for her, but it was a joy to watch her find courage to deal with real life issues and be valued and loved.
I guess we all want acceptance, so seeing a heroine who’s not beautiful in the traditional sense find love, reassures us that each of us is just as worthy of happiness as these heroines are. Christina Aguilera summed it up. “You are beautiful, no matter what they say.”
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.